Korea’s first Apple store opens amidst curiosity

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On Jan. 26, Apple opened its first official Apple branch in Korea in Garosu-gil, a street in Seoul known for its exquisite boutiques and cafes. The Seoul flagship store marks 500th Apple location around the world, and the excitement could be felt by the hundreds of visitors who waited in line overnight to enter on the opening day. Despite the enthusiastic welcome the launch seems to get receiving, a portion of the Korean public remains skeptical as to the potential success of the retailer.

According to Yonhap News, a major complaint of Korean Apple customers in the past had been the inconvenience of lacking the customer service that the Apple provide. Some state that Apple employees are better capable of giving detailed descriptions of the products, which can help customers make better informed decisions. In addition, according to The Korea Times, Apple fans regard waiting for the Genius Bar or wandering around the location part of the “Apple experience” that appeals to the brand image.

“Rather than going to a nearby phone provider, I would rather go to the official Apple branch,” said Gloria Park (12), Apple user. “There, I can explore the different options that they have, and also buy the technological accessories compatible with the device I am buying. General phone providers tend to be a bit more impersonal, whereas the Genius Bar will provide the genuine customer service experience.”

However, some question the possible impact the retailer will have on the Korean market. According to Joongang Daily, many Koreans already find offline shopping obsolete, and opt to buy their goods online due to its convenience. In addition, according to Korea Herald, Korean Apple users do not find the need to visit the official Apple store as of yet. Without having to specifically visit Garosu-gil, there are multitudes of cheaper options available, such as private repair shops that are tacitly condoned by the Korean Apple reseller Frisbee.

“I tried booking an appointment at the Genius Bar the other day in order to fix my iPad,” said Ellie Cheong (11), Apple user. “In the end, I decided not to go. First of all, the location is quite inconvenient, and the waiting times at the Genius Bar even more so. I’m going to stick to my original option, which is to go to a repair place in my own neighborhood.”

Of course, there are reasons as to why Koreans may be less receptive to Apple in general. According to Korea Exposé, the company faces stiff competition from domestic Korean brands that are already more well established among the Korean consumer platform. For example, statistics from CNN report that Samsung held 64.10 percent of the smartphone market share in 2017, which is comparable to LG’s 19 percent and Apple’s 16 percent.

“Personally, I do not think that Apple will have a lot of trouble in the Korean market because of the domestic competitors such as Samsung or LG,” said Gordon Kim (10), Apple user. “When Apple was attempting to enter the Chinese smartphone market, many people had similar fears. However, even with large, dominating Chinese companies such as Huawei, Apple still progressed.”

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Jina Kim

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